One of the most interesting things about EVE Online is the fact that its single shard server forces players from different countries and cultures to co-exist in the same space. In a virtual universe in which the distances and barriers between real world nations should be meaningless, players still tend to split off into geographical and cultural analogues of their home nations. Some of that is due to timezone differences, of course, but the biggest drivers of division always seem to be language-based or cultural in nature.
What do the Russians think about their place in New Eden? I caught up with players last weekend at EVE St Petersburg to find out.
The story of how I recently found myself wrestling with deep language barriers in a Russian bar actually starts slightly further north in Iceland. CCP Games usually hosts its annual EVE Fanfest event there in the heart of Reykjavik where the game is developed, attracting players from around the world. There’s no Fanfest this year owing to building work going on near the venue, so CCP has taken Fanfest on the road with the EVE World Tour.
Developers are descending on a series of player-run gatherings around the world this year, bringing with them major announcements, direct support, and a press presence. Last weekend it was Russia’s turn to play host to CCP as the annual EVE St Petersburg event kicked off, and I was on the ground at the event to speak with players and developers about what makes EVE such a big deal for its Russian playerbase.
Not speaking a word of Russian made this something of a surreal event in the beginning, but I quickly learned that fandom is a universal language. From the cheers at announcements and the looks of interest at the deep dive presentation on EVE lore to the crowd gathering around the PvP tournament competitors and copious alcohol consumption, all the hallmarks of a Fanfest were there. Swap the language for another and you could almost imagine this event being in any major European city.
In addition to the Invasion expansion reveal (which went totally over my head until I got the chance to read the devblog in English), there were some really cool moments at EVE St Petersburg.
There was a fantastic video entitled The Legacy of C-J6MT telling the story of the infamous Siege of C-J6MT, a pivotal event in EVE history that saw a defeated RED Alliance stubbornly stood its ground against a horde of enemies five times its size. If you want to get Russian players excited, epic stories of war and glory definitely seem to do the trick! A sketch of a monument to immortalise the event was presented at the event.
I was particularly impressed with the fact that player organisation Arataka Research had created a version of its latest video in Russian and had a local on stage giving a briefing on the Triglavian lore. When even CCP has difficulty supporting Russian language content, it’s a big deal for a player group like Arataka to be able to do this. It was also very interesting to see the turnout for the CCP AMA segment; While attendees at EVEsterdam had to be prompted to generate questions for CCP, the queue for questions at EVE St Petersburg stretched across the room. The opportunity for real two-way communication with CCP devs was clearly very important to the Russian community despite any language barriers.
What makes Russian players different?
There was one main question on my mind throughout this event, and I asked it to anyone who could understand: What makes Russian EVE players different to non-Russians? “For me, difference is not exist,” one player told me, and several others said they played with Americans and Europeans all the same. Others discussed the slang Russian players use that can be confusing even to people who speak the language and talked about the difference in attitudes in fleets and corps.
The Russian slang is an interesting story in itself, as much of it seems to come from close phonetic matches to the English names for ships and items. This itself is a result of so many Russian players using the English client due to EVE‘s poor Russian localisation, but it has become part of the community’s culture now. It’s just another complication in an already high language barrier, and I think that’s ultimately the biggest difference between Russian and non-Russian players and why they seem to stick together so much: Just communication barriers. “We all think the same,” one player told me, and I’m beginning to think he’s right.
An interview with Maria, one of the organisers
Among those organising the event was a player named Maria, a friendly soul with a real passion for EVE Online. I got chatting to Maria before the event to find out how she got involved with the event and what she thinks separates Russian players from the rest of EVE.
Brendan: So tell me a little bit about what you do in game.
Maria: Right now I’m not in an Alliance. I was in Pandemic Legion, but right now I’m just a solo player who is flying around and having fun, mostly mission running. I’m a bit tired of PvP, so sometimes you need to make some pauses. I took part in almost every war during eight years, so sometimes I just need to get some fun without going to fleets, without stress.
Have you been doing much of the new Abyssal Deadspace stuff or anything like that?
Right now I didn’t try it in because I need to learn some skills, so probably I’ll do it in a few months.
Brendan: You’re also part of organising this event, how did you get started with that?
When we started in 2015, it was a small event in St Petersburg. We had some support from CCP games, so we got some presents for players and we had like 30 or 50 players. Then I promised to guys that I will make something bigger, so I’ll try to get some developers to the St. Petersburg so they can talk to each other. Then in 2017 two developers came, so we had about 200 in Akkakao (the venue).
CCP offered to add Russia as part of world tour and asked if I could help them with it. I don’t know if they added Russia because I helped, but they asked me and I remembered I promised guys that I will make something bigger once. In 2017 we had around 200 players, but you need to understand that the Russian community is huge. And probably we don’t have a lot of community leaders who can organize something – there are always some small events.
Why do you think that is?
Probably it’s the stress because you need to think about almost everything, and when you have problem, problem, problem, problem, you need to solve it one by one. Sometimes they are willing to do something, but when they start they think, “Oh no, that’s, that’s too hard. I need to do something, and I’m alone.” So without support, it’s impossible.
In 2017 I had a huge help from CCP too; that was very stressful, and we didn’t have a lot of time, so [those] guys helped me a lot. I’ve got rather strange opinions about the event; some some of them were happy and some of them were like, you could do better. Mikhail (CCP Alpha) helps me a lot. Without him and without the CCP support this event wouldn’t be happening.
EVE has always been very popular in Russia, I’ve been playing since 2004 and there’s been this continual massive Russian presence. You’ve always had these problems with localisation and the language. So do you think it’s good for Russian players now?
Maria: Hard to say. I do not use localisation; I prefer to play a game on its original language, so we’re talking right now about English. I don’t have many problems with English, but I know that players don’t speak it, and for a long time a lot of players who didn’t know English couldn’t play well. So for example, they couldn’t understand missions, they couldn’t understand ship descriptions. So we had some kind of slang language.
For example, in English it’s “fitting” and the Russian it’s “fit” – it’s almost the same. So a lot of comments like that are from English because 10 years ago we didn’t have proper Russian language support. Right now. I don’t like Russian localisation for some reasons because it’s quite a bit different a game because I can’t understand Russian-speaking players. They use some pretty strange words.
It seems almost that people have just been playing in the English client for so long now that they can’t understand the Russian translations.
It’s almost impossible to understand. We use slang, but actually, when you’re switching between Russian fleets to English-speaking fleets, with slang you can understand them. So I used to fly with the Russian alliances, Russian corporations, and then I spent two or three years with English-speaking guys. I understood them and had no problems. You just need to know Align, Orbit, Warp, Primary, Secondary, you know, and in Russian too.
I suppose it helps that EVE fleets are almost like a military thing. There’s specific words that everyone uses or certain orders. You’ve you’ve played in both the Russian and non Russian communities, so this the big question, what is the difference Do you find between Russian and non Russian players and communities?
They are different. For example, in Russian community a few years ago when I was there, we had a CTA (a call to arms) and we had rule that it was CTA or log off. I didn’t like it because I came to the game and I wanted to fly, I wanted to have some fun, I wanted to do what I want. I knew that I’m in this alliance and I need to take part in this war, but sometimes I just wanted to do what I like. And why I should log off my character?
For example, when I changed my alliance [to a non-Russian one] and we had fleets and we had war, I was asking should I go. “If you want, you can!” and if you can’t or don’t want to, that’s fine. But we had different importance – like we had red ops which means it’s an important one, so I know that I need to go. I can stay where I want, but I know that I need to go there.
Do you think they organise their stuff very differently?
Yes. For example, in the Russian CTA you need to go and almost all fleets were CTA. In the English-speaking community, there were different types, those like common ops then important ones. So for important one, everyone goes, but if we had some different plans, we could do that, and join for example later. And this is the difference, so English-speaking guys were having more fun. That was a shock for me. Believe me, I was like “How is this possible, you have a full fleet and you didn’t have such rules and CTA?” They had fun, and they didn’t play it as work.
Most of us definitely play EVE in our spare time for fun and don’t want it to be a second job. So you think there’s a bit of a cultural difference there still?
Probably, yes, but it’s hard to say. I was in such alliances and corporations that had these rules. Probably under a different corporation, they had other rules. I hope so. So whether you’re in the small Alliance or small Corporation, you have more fun because we don’t need you to take part in all the wars and you can choose what you want to do. Sometimes mining ops can be much more fun; you can sit with your friends in Teamspeak or Discord and just laugh.
I know this is a pretty broad question, but what can CCP do to improve EVE for the Russian community?
Supporting events helps, probably because players can talk to developers. Going to Fanfest is pretty expensive for Russians. We didn’t go with last year because it was very expensive. And [Russian players] do not have a chance to talk to [CCP] directly. They can write on the forums, and due to language differences sometimes developers can read it, but they can’t answer it. Probably they’re reading forums, but if you want to answer, they need to provide the text, send it to translation, and then post. That will take time.
For example, I know that there are Reddit, Forums, Twitters, and they’re English-speaking. That’s why the community’s like… it’s not isolated, but they do not have communication. This is why this event, I hope it’ll help to prove to developers they can listen to what Russian people are thinking about the game and their ideas. This is their chance.
I don’t get to talk to many Russian players, so it’s good to get that out there. So when you just think opening up more communication and some two-way communication there would help a lot?
Yep. This is a chance for them to talk to each other and talk to developers as well. We have a few players who can speak English pretty well, so they’re helping with translation, and some of them I asked to help with the event.
Thanks for talking to me and good luck with the event!
You too, thank you!
I went to EVE St Petersburg hoping to get an insight into what makes the Russian community different, but in the end I learned that we’re actually very much the same. The language barrier and the geographic difficulty for Russian players wanting to attend other events such as Fanfest can be make it seem like the Russian community is isolated, but it’s really thriving in its own space.
EVE St Petersburg reportedly sold out at hundreds of tickets this year with very little promotion, and I could see it getting much larger with continued support from CCP and the dedication of the player organisers like Maria and Mikhail.